Let’s take a look at each position group and hand out some grades to start the new school year.
Khalil Tate took all of the snaps at quarterback and, to be honest, it’s a bit hard to grade. I’ll preface it with the fact that Marcel Yates called such a horrible game that it made Noel Mazzone’s play calling look a lot better than it actually was which we’ll get into later.
What also makes it difficult to grade is the fact that Tate was a lot more mobile than last year, topping the century mark with 108 yards. Last season, his highest rushing total was 46 yards. It’s what we’ve wanted to see for the last 12 months, and while a lot of Tate’s runs were not designed, he took it upon himself to take off for yards.
Even though he threw for a career-high 361 yards and three touchdowns, Tate missed on a good amount of throws, completing just 56 percent of his passes and didn’t look like an experienced senior quarterback.
His first interception was entirely on Drew Dixon, who didn’t corral a catchable ball. His second pick might have sealed Arizona’s fate as it came right at the goal line in the fourth quarter when Arizona could have tied or taken the lead.
Running backs: B-
The offensive line didn’t help the running game a whole lot, and Taylor seemed to be going nowhere in the first half before starting to bust out some longer runs in the second half.
He only had 14 carries, which isn’t great considering that is Arizona’s bread and butter, and finished with 67 yards (4.8 average) and a touchdown.
Behind Taylor, Michael Wiley had three carries for three yards, his longest run going for three yards. But it was his catching out of the backfield that was extremely impressive for the true freshmen and salvaged some value. He had three catches and ended with 50 yards, most of which came from him running hard after the catch.
And at last we saw Nathan Tilford, who came in at the goal line for a one-yard touchdown, which should boost his confidence.
The disappointing part was the lack of touches by who most thought would be Taylor’s primary backup, Gary Brightwell. He did not have any carries and his only touch was an 11-yard reception.
Wide Receivers: B
This is an interesting group to grade. Arizona’s receivers averaged over 16 yards a catch, which is insane. All of the hype surrounding Jamarye Joiner at wide receiver seemed to be valid, as he came out with four catches for 72 yards and a touchdown. He juggled two of his receptions and had a route running mistake near the sidelines but all in all I’d say the transition from quarterback is a big success.
Stanley Berryhill III had a couple of big catches, netting 92 yards and a touchdown when all was said and done. And then we saw the very speedy junior college addition Tayvian Cunningham haul in four for 65 yards.
One of the more underrated performances was Brian Casteel, who had three catches for 31 yards but was running extremely hard after each catch and had flashed good speed.
Tight End: A
We finally saw Bryce Wolma back involved in the passing game, hauling in a 14-yard touchdown off a Tate jump pass. I don’t recall Wolma being in the game a whole lot as a pass catcher but he was in as a blocker.
Khalil Tate went Tim Tebow on Hawaii pic.twitter.com/0ZO5YtQfpK— AZ Desert Swarm (@AZDesertSwarm) August 25, 2019
Offensive Line: C-
I felt that the pass protection was decent at times, but we did have to see Tate bail on the pocket quite a few times as well. But the run blocking just did not have anything going and it was extremely hard to establish the run and likely why Taylor only had 14 carries.
Arizona was able to get some outside zone going in the second half where Taylor could wrap around the edge but it was an uphill battle as Hawaii was getting a good push up front.
Defensive Line: F
This isn’t entirely fair to grade this group so poorly because a majority of the issue was the three-man rush. Rushing just three defensive linemen and having linebackers drop 10 yards into coverage does this group injustice.
Jalen Harris had half a sack and 1.5 tackles for loss. Outside of that, the line didn’t really produce much pressure.
Again, this is all leading up to the coaching grade, but it’s hard to ask your linebackers to drop back into coverage on every play and expect results. If you wanted to drop them back on every play, then sub them in for defensive backs.
When the defense did decide to bring some heat, the linebackers were able to help the line generate some more pressure but overall the linebackers just weren’t put in position to succeed.
You get your normal production from Colin Schooler but it still seemed like a quiet nine tackles, which still led the team. Tony Fields had himself an interception to end a long drive but these two just weren’t maximized by the staff.
I get that Hawaii just torched the defense for 436 passing yards but when it’s open season for the quarterback with a clean pocket it’s hard to cover a receiver for that long. I felt that the corners were okay in coverage, with only one major slip up from Christian Roland-Wallace, who got beat deep, but that comes with playing a true freshman against a gunslinger.
Jace Whittaker was a bright spot, coming down with two interceptions and Lorenzo Burns joined in and got himself one, too.
My goodness, this is Arizona’s best and deepest position and they got blown by all game long. Cedric Byrd, who ended with 224 yards and four touchdowns, was eating up the middle of the field.
This is what we were all waiting for. As a Division 1, Power-Five defensive coordinator, I don’t know how you watch film on Hawaii and their opponents that stopped them last year, along with the personal experience of getting absolutely worked by passing teams in previous year, and come out with this plan. It’s year four, you’ve had plenty of time to recruit and install.
Marcel Yates called such a terrible game that it made us forget about how bad the play calling was for Noel Mazzone once again. Either adapt the play calling to Tate’s strengths and put the offense in position to make plays, or run your offense with your guy Grant Gunnell and let it ride.
Of course, Kevin Sumlin is leading this dumpster fire, and I’d love to know what is said in the headsets during games and in meetings after watching all of this.